Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday announced that his social media website would no longer allow political advertising. According to Dorsey, a "political message" should be earned by politicians, which can be done by gaining followers and followers retweeting their message.
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…??— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
Dorsey made it very clear that advertising is lucrative but comes with risks, a clear jab at Facebook, who decided not to fact check or remove politicians' political ads.
While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
These challenges will affect ALL internet communication, not just political ads. Best to focus our efforts on the root problems, without the additional burden and complexity taking money brings. Trying to fix both means fixing neither well, and harms our credibility.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
He also called into question a social media platform's ability to be credible when, on one hand, they allow politicians to pay to play, but on the other hand, they attempt to halt the spreading of misinformation. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: “We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well...they can say whatever they want! ??”— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
Dorsey also realized that single-issue advocacy groups could circumvent the candidate-only ads. Think about it: how many times does a group like Planned Parenthood buy ads discouraging people to vote for a pro-life candidate or Everytown for Gun Safety push digital ads in favor of gun control candidates?
We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we're stopping these too.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
We’re well aware we‘re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem. Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
In addition, we need more forward-looking political ad regulation (very difficult to do). Ad transparency requirements are progress, but not enough. The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
Twitter will release their final plan by the 15th and start enforcing the policy on the 22nd.
We’ll share the final policy by 11/15, including a few exceptions (ads in support of voter registration will still be allowed, for instance). We’ll start enforcing our new policy on 11/22 to provide current advertisers a notice period before this change goes into effect.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
A final note. This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.— jack ?????? (@jack) October 30, 2019
The social media platform's Chief Financial Officer followed up by saying less than $3 million was spent on political advertising during the 2018 election cycle. It's hard to say just how much money Twitter will be losing as we head into the 2020 presidential campaign. Candidates and political action committees spend far more money during a presidential election than a midterm, meaning Twitter's loses will be greater than last cycle's profits.
Since we are getting questions: This decision was based on principle, not money. As context, we’ve disclosed that political ad spend for the 2018 US midterms was <$3M. There is no change to our Q4 guidance. I am proud to work @twitter! #LoveWhereYouWork https://t.co/U9I0o1woev— Ned Segal (@nedsegal) October 30, 2019
Twitter's stock dropped more than one percent after Dorsey's announcement was made, CNBC reported.
Democrats praised Twitter's decision.
This is good. There’s a lot more Twitter should be doing to clean up the platform, but this is a good first step. Your move, Google/Facebook. https://t.co/dP5oidb2hq— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) October 30, 2019
This is a good call. Technology - and social media especially - has a powerful responsibility in preserving the integrity of our elections.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 30, 2019
Not allowing for paid disinformation is one of the most basic, ethical decisions a company can make.
Many folks have asked whether I believe all social media political ads should be banned outright.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 30, 2019
I believe that if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all. /2
I say this as a candidate that runs digital ads & believe they can be productive + useful *IF* used responsibly.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 30, 2019
People say that tech companies can’t fact check, but basic fact checking isn’t hard. We‘re talking abt blocking outright disinformation: wrong vote records, etc.
The Trump campaign, however, took issue with the policy change.
"Twitter just walked away form hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision for their stockholders," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. "Will Twitter also be stopping ads from biased liberal media outlets who will now run unchecked as they buy obvious political content meant to attack Republicans? This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known."